Come to London with me: Summer 2019

img_2450British Books and Beasts: Animals in Literature, London, and Life
Mary C. Miles, Ph.D.

“The love for all living creatures is the most noble aspect of man.”
~Charles Darwin

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”
~A. A. Milne

The analysis of animal’s perspectives, their relationships with humans in society, and their role in culture has become a matter of great scholarly interest in the past couple of decades. From literature to law, history, philosophy, and psychology, animals are taking on importance not only as their own ethical subjects with consciousness, but for their intersectionality with human issues ranging from colonialism and gender to consumerism and class. Their role as literary symbols has long been recognized. This course aims to investigate not only those symbolic roles, but the larger social questions scholars have posed about animals, and, ultimately, the lived experience of animals themselves.

As a compact region, London and its environs present the perfect opportunity to examine animals from a variety of perspectives in a circumscribed area. In course readings we will look closely at the ways that animals have existed in British culture and how their experiences have been made manifest in British literature. From the romantic poets and 20th century children’s stories to Darwin’s theories and J.M. Coetze’s reflections, we will explore the ways animals are central to discussions of child development, evolution, imperialism, rights, pain, sentimental family bonds, and welfare. We will look at the 19th century animal welfare movement; the 20th century emphasis on pets and animal companions; Zoos and other efforts to contain, conserve, and conceptualize animals for the public; and the role of animals in nature — the wild — in both their own worlds and in the imagined landscapes of human readers and writers.

Selection of London Activities: The Natural History Museum, The Darwin Center at the Natural History Museum, The British Museum, the Darwin Museum, The RSPCA, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, SEA LIFE London Aquarium, the London Zoo. Field trip to Oxford where fantasy authors such as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, and A. A. Milne, among others, brought animals to life in children’s literature. A highlight of the course will be a road trip to the UK Donkey Sanctuary on the south-west coast to personally meet some animals with a rich and challenging history in the UK.

Dates: July 2019

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